Leicester

Protester with 'beef' against police jailed for closing M1

Nicholas Muton Image copyright Leicestershire Police

A protester who disrupted thousands of motorists by scaling a gantry and causing the M1 to be closed for 28 hours has been jailed for two years.

Nicholas Muton claimed he was protesting against police corruption and the court heard that he was convicted of a similar stunt in 2003.

His recent protest, which began on 12 June, cost emergency services £1.4m and the wider economy an estimated £28m.

He pleaded guilty at Leicester Crown Court to causing a public nuisance.

Judge Adrienne Lucking QC told him his protest was a "childish response to your beef with the police".

"Your actions had a direct economic impact on the constabulary and the wider economy," she said.

Muton's motivation

Image copyright Nicholas Muton
Image caption Nicholas Muton had made 34 complaints to police in the past, and posted this photo on his Facebook page

Muton, 45, of no fixed address, was found guilty of the same offence by a jury in 2003, after he brought the M1 to a standstill for 10 hours by threatening to hang himself from a bridge.

He was jailed for 18 months at the time.

In 2007 he was arrested for attempting to jump off a bridge, and was Tasered by police while he was in custody.

The court heard this was one of the reasons behind his most recent protest; he had also claimed to have been abused as a child.

Muton has made 34 complaints to police in the past, plus appeals to the Independent Police Complaints Commission but none have been resolved in his favour.

Days before his most recent protest he phoned police anonymously saying there was going to be a demonstration, but he did not say where and exactly when.

Muton also wrote a Facebook message warning about his plan and alleging police had "covered up" child abuse.

The court heard that no charges have ever been brought in relation to the alleged child abuse. Leicestershire Police said it would not be commenting on Muton's claims of corruption.

He climbed the information board gantry between Coalville and Loughborough on the southbound carriageway at about midday at 12 June, and wrote messages alleging that someone "tried 2 kill me" and referring to "2 murder attempts".

Police tried to talk him down but he was abusive and threatened to jump.

He eventually came down at about 16:00 BST the following day after the IPCC arrived.

The gantry was near East Midlands Airport and the court heard that cars were abandoned by people trying to catch flights, which hundreds of them missed.

Image caption Nicholas Muton put a public post on Facebook warning he was going to demonstrate on the M1

Angela Clark, District Crown Prosecutor at CPS East Midlands, said Muton had "set out to cause the maximum disruption possible".

"The regular users of the road were affected and there were also thousands of people due to leave Donington Park from the Download festival at that point," she said.

"People reported missing flights at the nearby East Midlands Airport, vehicle breakdowns and some accidents resulting from overcrowded roads."

In mitigation, Muton's lawyer said he knew what he did was wrong, apologised and wanted to put it behind him.

But the judge said his "one-man protest" was "so serious and had such a significant impact, a clear message must be sent".

Muton claimed police closed the motorway to "wind him up", but Leicestershire Police defended their actions.

Assistant Chief Constable Phil Kay said: "Our priority from the outset was the safety of the defendant, of my officers, and of the wider motoring public and the closure was necessary in order to reach a safe conclusion."

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